Knights v Mariners

Cup report by Football Australia
New Zealand Knights v Central Coast Mariners

Damien Brown celebrated his recall to the Central Coast Mariners side with the only goal in their sides win over an injury-riddled New Zealand Knights team at North Harbour Stadium.

Brown has been forced to watch the Mariners first two games from the stands, but came in for the suspended John Hutchinson, and his 5th minute goal eventually proved the difference in a tight game.

The win has lifted Central Coast into the semi finals of the Pre-Season Cup, after Queensland Roar was held to a 0-0 draw by Sydney FC, played later in Cairns.

Browns goal came after a mix-up by Knights goalkeeper Danny Milosevic and his defence and in the ensuing scramble Brown poked home from about 8 metres out.

Chinese Under 23 international Xiaobin Zhang looked lively up front for the home side and he was denied an opportunity to level in the 18th minute by desperate defending by the Mariners to block his shot from close range.

In a match that lacked many clear cut chances on goal, Zhang could have sealed a well-earned point for the Knights, with his header in the final minute, well saved by John Crawley.

The Knights, who had just one fit outfield player on the bench, showed a lot more commitment against the Mariners, following last weeks disappointing 5-0 thumping from Queensland.

This was not lost on Knights Manager John Adshead, who was a much brighter man after tonights performance.

We are disappointed at not getting something out of this game, dont get me wrong, the former Kiwi coach said. But there was much to admire in this side tonight in a losing effort.

Josh Maguire showed what he will mean to this team despite understandably struggling for fitness while I thought we continued to challenge the Mariners in all areas of the game right through to the final whistle. I will never be happy with a loss but will accept that performance and effort from my players knowing that we will improve from here.

When asked what the Knights would be doing over the next three weeks ahead of the Hyundai A-League starting, Adshead quipped:

I am going to come back to work, wake up on Thursday morning and be told that all my players are fit and healthy are ready to get into some serious inter-squad matches as we step up our preparation for the league proper.

Mariners Manager Lawrie McKinna was relieved to take the points away against a side that he warned will continue to improve.

We knew this would not be easy, especially after last week, said McKinna. The Knights have some quality players and have already shown signs of improvement since we played them 2 weeks or so back on the Gold Coast.

The supporters should not be downhearted; the Knights will be a team to be reckoned with in the league proper once they have had more time together.